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America Asks About Heartburn & GERD

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Nighttime Heartburn: 12 Sleep Tips

12 Tips for Nighttime Heartburn Relief continued...

6. Steer clear of late-night meals or big meals. Avoid eating meals two to three hours before bedtime to reduce stomach acid and allow the stomach to partially empty its contents before you sleep, suggests the American Gastroenterological Association. Because large meals put pressure on your stomach, try eating a smaller meal in the evening to help prevent nighttime heartburn symptoms.

7. Relax when you eat. Feeling stressed when you eat in a rush can cause the stomach to produce more stomach acids. Relax after your meal as well -- but don't lay down. Some pros recommend trying relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation.

8. Stay upright after eating. This reduces the risk of acid creeping up your esophagus. You'll also want to avoid bending over or straining to lift heavy objects.

9. Wait to exercise. Allow a couple of hours after a meal before rigorous exercise. This gives your stomach time to empty itself.

10. Chew gum. Chewing gum encourages the production of saliva, which can soothe your esophagus and wash acid down into your stomach.

11. Quit smoking. Smoking is a double threat when it comes to heartburn. Not only can cigarette smoke irritate your GI tract, but smoking can also relax the esophageal muscles that keep stomach acid where it belongs.

12. Talk to your doctor about the medications you take. Some medications may cause or worsen heartburn, including NSAIDs, some osteoporosis drugs, some heart and blood pressure drugs, some hormone medications, some asthma medications, and some depression medications. Just as everyone's food triggers for heartburn can be different, so can medication triggers.

Heartburn: When You Should See Your Doctor

If lifestyle changes don't help you manage your heartburn, it may be time for medication or other treatment. Call your doctor if:

  • Your heartburn doesn't go away.
  • You have trouble swallowing.
  • Your heartburn causes vomiting.
  • You still have heartburn after using antacids for two weeks.

Never ignore persistent heartburn. Left untreated, chronic acid reflux can scar and narrow your esophagus, cautions Gary Gitnick, MD, chief of digestive diseases/gastroenterology at UCLA. At its worst, untreated chronic heartburn -- a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) -- can develop into esophageal cancer.

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Reviewed on March 03, 2010
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